Brennan Mann, posing with his sister, decided to make his 24th birthday about raising funds for the YES project youth resource centre. Submitted photo

Helping others is his present

Turning his birthday into a gift for others

Brennan Mann knows just how valuable a youth centre can be.

Mann, who graduated from Penticton Secondary in 2012, didn’t have access to anything like the planned YES youth centre when he was growing through his teen years and trying to answer questions about his identity. Now a proud 24-year-old transgendered college student, Mann said there wasn’t a lot of information available to help him answer the questions he was facing.

“I really didn’t even know who I was until I was 19 or 20, and that was when I started my transition,” said Mann. “I didn’t really know who to turn to. I had to go through several different doctors and referrals to figure out how to start my process, my transition.”

Having a place that focuses on resources for youth, he said, would have been great, to give him a place to start. So for his 24th birthday, he decided that was the perfect time to get on board.

Related: Penticton Youth Centre fundraising campaign begins

Rather than presents for himself, Mann decided he wanted to do something meaningful to help other people, and make his birthday significant by asking people to donate to a fund to help build the youth centre, starting the campaign as a present to himself.

He’s still totalling up the private donations but said the response from the business community was impressive.

“I was actually overwhelmed by the number of businesses that came forward that wanted to get involved, the first being Locolanding, which has donated three hours of business time in May, whenever we choose to use it and all the proceeds will go towards the YES project,” said Mann. Clancy’s Liquor Store is another, offering a donation of $1 from select six-packs.

“And that is from now to Canada Day, so that is an ongoing one for the next few months. I am really hoping we can pull together a few thousand dollars before the summertime.“

Mann is open about his gender choices and said it just seemed the time was right to do something like this.

“I think that took a lot of being comfortable with myself, and now that I am, I’m really ready to put it out there and try to help as much as I can. This seemed like the perfect opportunity to get involved,” said Mann.

He also said he was lucky to have been in a supportive situation in his teens.

“A lot of trans people are not very confident. They seclude themselves in high school, where I always had a very good group of friends,” said Mann. “That was probably the biggest thing that got me through it, was having people around me that didn’t judge me. That’s not the case for a lot of people. I know people that get bullied every day, that have had to switch schools, who just can’t really catch a break.”

Mann said he wants to pay that luck forward and make it easier for young kids to feel wanted.

“Whether it be for being LGBT or not, any time growing up as a kid is kind of confusing,” said Mann. “I definitely think there is a need. The sooner that we can give them the help they need, the better.

“It’s better that we are able to offer help to kids that don’t need it than it not be there for the ones that do.”

Steve Kidd
Senior reporter, Penticton Western News
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